Vitamin A deprivation affects the progression of the spermatogenic wave and initial formation of the blood-testis barrier, resulting in irreversible testicular degeneration in mice

Masataka Chihara, Saori Otsuka, Osamu Ichii, Yasuhiro Kon
Journal of Reproduction and Development 2013 December 17, 59 (6): 525-35
The blood testis-barrier (BTB) is essential for maintaining homeostasis in the seminiferous epithelium. Although many studies have reported that vitamin A (VA) is required for the maintenance of spermatogenesis, the relationships between the BTB, spermatogenesis and VA have not been elucidated. In this study, we analyzed BTB assembly and spermatogenesis in the testes of mice fed the VA-deficient (VAD) diet from the prepubertal period to adulthood. During the prepubertal period, no changes were observed in the initiation and progression of the first spermatogenic wave in mice fed the VAD diet. However, the numbers of preleptotene/leptotene spermatocytes derived from the second spermatogenic wave onwards were decreased, and initial BTB formation was also delayed, as evidenced by the decreased expression of mRNAs encoding BTB components and VA signaling molecules. From 60 days postpartum, mice fed the VAD diet exhibited apoptosis of germ cells, arrest of meiosis, disruption of the BTB, and dramatically decreased testis size. Furthermore, vacuolization and calcification were observed in the seminiferous epithelium of adult mice fed the VAD diet. Re-initiation of spermatogenesis by VA replenishment in adult mice fed the VAD diet rescued BTB assembly after when the second spermatogenic wave initiated from the arrested spermatogonia reached the preleptotene/leptotene spermatocytes. These results suggested that BTB integrity was regulated by VA metabolism with meiotic progression and that the impermeable BTB was required for persistent spermatogenesis rather than meiotic initiation. In conclusion, consumption of the VAD diet led to critical defects in spermatogenesis progression and altered the dynamics of BTB assembly.

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